Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Al-Qaeda’s Woman Speaks for Many

By Ali Alyami

Saudi women are forced to disguise themselves in disfiguring black garments. They are not allowed to drive, work, travel, receive equal education or get medicine without male permission. This maltreatment of half of Saudi society because of their gender is pushing Saudi women to get back at those responsible for their misfortunes. Recent surveys conducted by Saudi professionals show that women are resorting to violence at home, against the government’s religious police and joining violent groups like Al-Qaeda.

Contrary to the Saudi government’s assertions and its apologists’ misinformation, Al-Qaeda continues to appeal to many Saudis and other Arabs, including women. This does not mean the majority of Al-Qaeda supporters or admirers are religious, poor or are in favor of an oppressive Islamist state like Saudi Arabia. People are forced into supporting and joining Al-Qaeda out of helplessness and desperation as many see this violent group as their last resort against their autocratic regime and those who support it. This is a reality that Western governments, institutions and businesses have to face, and they must re-evaluate their relations with the Saudi autocratic monarchy whose institutions produce more religious extremists and suicide bombers than any other country in the world.

It is worth remembering that the aim of Osama Bin Laden, the wealthy, highly educated and charismatic founder and financier of Al-Qaeda, from the very beginning was to oust the House of Saud. This is not because of the monarchy’s irreligious and corrupt behavior, an argument Bin Laden and his followers use as a recruiting tool. As an astute strategist and avid student of Muslim ideological violent movements and history, especially the Saudi-Wahhabi military expeditions, Bin Laden uses religion to discredit, denigrate and inflict fear and destruction on his opponents.

Bin Laden’s objectives and strategies are identical to those used by the Saudi-Wahhabi movement that began in 1744 and has continued to the present day. Like the Saudi-Wahhabi conquering alliance, Bin Laden indoctrinates, trains, feeds and arms his followers and empowers them to destroy and kill the enemies of God and Islam. Most of Al-Qaeda’s operatives in the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere are usually men but the movement appeals to destitute women as well. One of Al-Qaeda’s most formidable indoctrinators, recruiters and fundraisers, Haylah Al-Qassir (nicknamed Mrs. Al-Qaeda), was arrested by the Saudi authorities on February 21, 2010. As the attached article explains, “Haylah Al Qassir is a dangerous woman with a strong personality, and was one of the most active and effective Al Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia. She is known to have recruited women and youth to Al Qaeda, as well as been responsible for financing.”

The continuation of the intolerable political, religious, social, educational and economic environment in Saudi Arabia will continue to push Saudi men and women into committing violent acts against each other, their neighbors and the international community. The U.S. and other Western countries can propel the Saudi monarchy to begin sharing power with Saudi citizens through local and national elections. The Saudi people, like all people, want and deserve better treatment from their government.

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